ICONz for Ozzie

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Recently Ozzie has started taking part in an activity that is solely his…

And is loving it!

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A few months ago our Family Based therapy team connected us with the amazing people at Parents in Toto. This non-profit organization, based out of Zelienople, offers support to individuals on the Autism spectrum including parental support, social skills groups and family activities multiple times a month. This year they are also offering a free ICONz class at their center, made possible through a state grant.

While visiting Parents in Toto, we were introduced to the ICONz program and knew that it was a program that would benefit both Ozzie and the entire family. In addition to teaching needed skills, this class allows Ozzie to meet twice a week with other 13-18 year olds  on the spectrum and hone his social skills in a fun and engaging way.

So, what is the ICONz® Program?

The program is designed for students to learn positive ways of responding to social situations and the underlying complexities of these interactions.

The ICONz® Program is uniquely based on research conducted in local high schools with curriculum written and developed by Russell Johnson, PhD, founder and principle of ICONz® Associates, LLC.

How does the program work?

The program uses a series of stories that describe characters in everyday social encounters. Students are introduced to visually-based concepts/cues that help the main character achieve a positive outcome. The ICONz® Social Concept Cues enable students to understand the complexity of social expectations and choose positive responses. This language-based curriculum requires basic verbal ability to participate in the exchange of ideas.

 The program is most successful when the ICONz® language is used in the group and at home.

The ICONz® Toolbox Curriculum

Dr. Johnson’s experience with verbal adolescents and adults with ASD is consistent with recent advances in autism research suggesting that these individuals are better able to perform behaviors which he calls Information Processing Skills but perform less well on tasks which focus on Social Relationship-Building Skills.

Based on his research, Dr. Johnson has developed a curriculum that integrates practices that have been found to be helpful in working with verbal individuals on the autism scale. The ICONz® Toolbox Curriculum is based on the use of ICONz® Social Concept Cues, a set of easy-to-remember visual cues and their accompanying reminder phrases. The ICONz® Curriculum contains a series of lessons that illustrate how to use the ICONz® Social Concept Cues in everyday life through stories, social autopsies, brainstorming other options, journaling, and life application.

The ICONz® Curriculum helps verbal individuals with ASD learn more effective Social Relationship-Building Skills and improve their ability to balance relationship-building and Information Processing Skills in everyday social life. The goal is to help individuals with ASD learn to improve the quality of their lives in terms of independence and overall satisfaction in their relationships with other people.

ICONz® Social Concept Cues

The proprietary ICONz® Social Concept Cues are a specialized visual language designed to help individuals learn, remember, and apply basic social concepts and behaviors in every day life. These vivid, compact symbols serve as powerful visual cues to activate social behaviors learned in conjunction with the ICONz® Toolbox Curriculum. Some targeted social behaviors include compromise, self control, and “getting the big picture” (context). These and other verbal and social behaviors are especially difficult for individuals with ASD.

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Ozzie has now been participating in his ICONz group for a few weeks and is LOVING it. The setting is interactive and engaging and the affect of that engagement is understanding and retention of the concepts taught.

We have also begun introducing each of these principles in our home in an attempt to have these key phrases become part of our common vocabulary. While developed for those on the spectrum, the principles are good basic human skills that everyone can benefit from applying to their interactions with others. I have especially seen how this ICONz  model could be beneficial for parenting children who have experienced trauma. The visual cues and short/clear verbal prompts are a great fit for the way the brain works in a child who has experienced the physiological effects trauma has on the brain.

Ozzie meets with his group two evenings a week and wishes it was more!

Thank you, Parents in Toto, for blessing our lives with ICONz,

What an amazing program!

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